Tag Archives: amsterdam brewery

The Divination Six Pack – Beer & The Tarot

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One of the things I’m often asked to do when trying beers is to assign a particular profile to whatever it is I’m drinking. This works as a descriptor of when/where to try a beer, but like with all things that involve taste and smell, it’s entirely subjective. To me a hotdog is best enjoyed on a city block while trying to fight away pigeons, whereas to others it might be in a baseball stadium. Each person has a different ideal scenario for what they’re having and each one has a very specific kind of emotional attachment to that scenario.

But hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s go back a couple of nights.

So I’m chatting with a friend of mine, Philosophy Professor and Occult Reality Augmentation Man-About-Town, Damien Patrick Williams about the popular method of divination, the Tarot Cards. Within that he brings up his own unique way of doing Tarot pulls that don’t involve the actual cards. Instead, he puts his music player on shuffle. When he asks his question (let’s say “How do I see myself?”), a song will come up and he’ll take in the lyrics and his emotional reaction to the song and figure out how it fits in to his question.  He feels that it works similar to the tarot, but also has the ability to provide a bit more nuance than cards, as songs can make you feel a whole mix of feelings at the same time.

This got me thinking about beer. After all, each beer has incredibly unique flavour profiles and brings about its own unique emotional response. If there was a way to create a randomized list of beers, could I do the same thing that Damien did with his music player? I decided to find out.

In creating a “deck”, I formed a list of a healthy mix of Ontario beers that were the resulted wins of the 2014 Ontario Brewing Awards, which involved three beers in each section, which was many different styles from Lite Beer to Dark IPA, to Wit Beer. To make things easier for a pull, I removed beers that either no longer existed (and that I hadn’t tried) or would be impossible for me to try in the span of a few days, leaving a grand total of 62 beers for this experiment. After making the list, I ran it through a list randomizer several times and it was complete.

To do a reading all you have to do is go to a random number generator, think about your question, and click “Generate”. Look up the number in the beer list, and then think about (or try!) the beer, noting it’s full flavour profile and what you think of it, including situations where you think it would be ideal to drink it in (and think about how you would feel about that situation, good or bad?). With those connections made, think about how they relate to your question and how they apply to you.

Removing the Tarot element of this, I feel it’s an excellent exercise in really getting to think about the connection you have with certain beers and may help you for pick out selections in the future. It’ll provide some context in your thought process and help you understand what kind of beer you want when faced with the dilemma of “what should I have?”. Additionally, this would be a really fun way to share beers with friends, as you can create a Divination 6-pack for them as a gift.

For the Ontario folks, I have this handy-dandy list pre-made, so you can use that (though feel free to make your own). For everyone else, at last we have a use for lists that web sites make! Ratebeer has a top 50 beer list section that can be customized, or you could spend an hour or so creating your own. The more there is on the list, the better. All you need is the random number generator and you’re good to go.

As for the questions, I’ve kept it simple but strong with six ones. You as you see yourself, you as others see you, your goal, recent past, near future, and ultimate outcome. As an example, I’ve done a pull of my own below. While I’m not going to give you specific aspects of my life, I have included my personal reaction to the results and have outlined the ones I feel have the strongest connection.

And here we go.

You As You See Yourself: Highlander Brew Company  Scottish Ale – A very soft-spoken beer in the public eye, but revealed to have a level of complexity due to the malts.

You As Others See You: F&M Stone Hammer Maple Red Ale – An all together solid beer and arguably one of the most solid from this particular brewery, it’s an Amber Ale brewed with locally sourced maple syrup. However, it isn’t to everyone’s tastes. Folks will either have one and never think of it again, or reach for another

Your Goal: Amsterdam Brewery – Downtown Brown – Whenever I think of Downtown Brown, I tend to think of “Balance”. While it has many of the elements of a solid, grounded brown ale, there is also a level of lightness to its taste that makes it a drink that doesn’t demand a certain atmosphere to enjoy it with. Very easy-going but grounded.

Recent Past: Molson-Coors Rickard’s White – Rickard’s White is actually a pretty good beer, but in America, where the exact beer is known as Blue Moon, it is a a beer that is constantly mistaken for something made by a smaller brewery (When in reality it’s made by one of the largest). As a result, there is a deep mistrust among the craft beer crowd and it has the image of trying to be something that it is not.

Near Future: Mill Street Frambozen – A very bright and sweet beer, ideally preferred in the sunshine. However, the taste is quite brief. (Only real personal note – Am planning a trip to Montreal soon)

Ultimate Outcome: Wellington Imperial Russian Stout – With several exceptions, I often view Imperial Stouts as the grand finale beer of a particularly trying day. With it’s dark roasted notes and slight alcohol burn, it’s a beer that’s meant to be savoured and sipped slowly. My ideal circumstance would be sitting in an easy chair with some music playing and a good book. Ultimately, with an Imperial Stout, in particular this one, I’d like to unwind from something with it. While this may not be my absolute first choice, it’s a damn good choice nonetheless.

And there you have it.

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Barkeep, Another Course – The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook

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Longtime readers of this site along with anyone who has known me for like, five minutes knows that one of my most enjoyable activities is cooking. Additionally, finding ways to cook with beer is another interest of mine, although I should say that beyond an excellent cake recipe, a weiss pizza crust, BBQ sauce, and a lovely sauce for some sausages, I’ve been left stumped.

Although there have been recipes and even books that involve incorporating beer in to the dish, I’ll be honest, guys…it’s easy to get cynical when I hear about someone releasing a beer cookbook. Normally it means that the recipes have beer thrown in with very little thought, the beers suggested are very specific ones which makes the book redundant in six months to a year from publishing date, the author’s tone suggests that (bless their heart) they don’t know a damn thing about beer, or, if it’s REALLY bad, a combination of all three of those things. We’ve all bought cookbooks before, or visited a recipe blog and were disappointed. We’ve all been hurt before.

But The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook is none of those things. For five years David Ort has been a food and drink writer on his blog, Food With Legs, and throughout that time he has been creating recipes, attending events, and doing research. This book, the product of many long hours of tweaking, testing, researching, and redoing for the self-taught cook, shows the careful effort that was put in to it.

The first thing that sticks out about each recipe is the accompanying beer recommendation. Although not every recipe is actually made with beer, every recipe does have a suggested pairing in order of style, specific Canadian beer, and sometimes a specific international beer. This not only gives you an ideal pairing for the meal, but, when referring to the specific style, ensures that I can still pick this book up after ten years and make something from it.

Another thing that sticks out for me is something that many would probably be surprised to learn – it’s not all pub food. While there are recipes for onion rings, Currywurst and Steak & Ale Pie, there are also recipes for Soba Salad, Fondue, and Rogan Josh as well as recipes for condiments such as IPA Mustard, homemade vinegar, and Hop infused Salt. The recipes I’ve been reading so far seem to range from “simple” to “a little more difficult but still simple” and the variety of foods ensures that one won’t be reaching for this book just for a main dish.

It’s also enflaming an adventurous, experimental spirit in me cooking-wise, I have to admit. I don’t even have my physical copy yet (I was graciously given a pdf to help me with this review) and as I type this I have some mustard seeds sitting in a jar of IPA where, for the first time, I’m going to be making my own mustard (though due to availability, I had to change the suggested beer of Amsterdam’s Boneshaker to Muskoka’s Mad Tom). Hop salt and Edamame will soon be following in the next couple of days.

To top it all off, its introduction section provides a very thorough history and guide to Craft Beer and the book is scattered with profiles of some of Canada’s Beer trailblazers. Ort’s thought process in forming the recipes is also brought out in an understandable way, helping the reader learn more about what it’s like cooking with the beverage from a  practical viewpoint.

In summary…buy this freakin’ book. There are others out there, but this one is the one I’m excited about because it is just so solid and ridiculously good. Simple recipes for big dishes that get you to think more about the individual ingredients as well as the incredible versatility of beer. Aside from what is already turning out for me as a book that I find myself going through for the next culinary adventure, it is also very obviously a love letter to good food, good beer and the country that provides both of those things.

David Ort’s Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook is available RIGHT NOW in Canada and the US both online and in stores, with plans to move things more across the pond to be available internationally.

For more info, check out the book’s page at beercookbook.ca

—–

You didn’t think I was going to write about a beer cookbook and not provide at least one recipe from it, did you? Honestly, and you call yourselves my readers…

When I visited David at his apartment a couple of days ago he made me a couple of dishes from the book. One in particular, an amazing fondue sauce, got devoured quickly. Tangy, sharp, smooth, slight burn (both literally from the temperature as well as from the little bit of brandy and mustard) and…argh. Just go and make it. Absolutely delicious.

FONDUE SAUCE

recommended beer Bière de garde
Barrel-Aged Bière de Garde, Bellwoods Brewery (Ontario)
Bière de Beloeil, Brasserie Dupont
(Belgium)
serves 4–6
preparation time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 15 minutes

7½ oz (230 g) shredded Gruyère
(about 2 cups/500 mL)
4 oz (125 g) shredded aged cheddar
(about 1 cup/250 mL)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup (250 mL) bière de garde
1 Tbsp (15 mL) whole-grain mustard
1 Tbsp (15 mL) cider vinegar
2 tsp (10 mL) brandy
freshly ground black pepper

Toss the two cheeses and cornstarch together in a medium mixing bowl. Set a fondue pot over medium heat and add the garlic cloves  and beer. When the beer barely simmers, add the cheese, a handful at a time, and stir to melt before adding the next handful. When the cheese sauce is smooth and creamy, add the mustard, vinegar and brandy. Season with a few grinds of black pepper. For dipping, move the fondue pot to its tabletop setup and serve with bread cubes, potatoes, sausages and pickles.

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Cask Days 2013

Two years ago I went to my very first beer festival at Hart House, part of the University of Toronto campus. It featured, if I recall correctly, somewhere around 50 casks, mostly from Ontario, and the reception was impressive with several hundred people showing up. This was the first time the festival had expanded from the patio of barVolo, where they started it all in 2005 and things were looking promising.

Fast forward to last weekend and Cask Days 2013 boasted 4,500 attendees and 230 casks from 124 different breweries from all over the country with a highlight of the UK as well. All spread out over 2 days and three sessions at the MASSIVE and beautiful Evergreen Brickworks.

I think I have whiplash from how fast things have developed and grown in only two years.

The Morana family have really done amazingly in bringing forth events that continue to welcome new members in to the world of craft beer while still making the beer geek’s cynical heart beat a little faster with anticipation. This event was huge, amazing and was filled with some incredible larger representation from other provinces, which highlighted the evergrowing popularity of beer.

The 230 casks allowed for more diversity than ever this year, featuring an eclectic selection of mild and strong of all different styles. There were Sours, English Browns, ESBs, Chocolate Stouts, and even Ciders all at the ready. It should be noted that this year’s glass design was certainley unique in that it was well…a mason jar. It no doubt appealed to younger festival goers and brought on a bit of nostalgia for the older folks who drank out of mason jars before it became so popular in the Williamsburg Era we currently live in. It served as a lovely sample glass and very unique souvenir that stands out among the many festival glasses one gets. I for one am looking forward to getting a lid for it and doing some beer-based pickling!

Moranas, you’ve done it again. That was truly an unforgettable festival experience.

And now on to my selected highlights:

Arran Dark Brown Ale – Isle of Arran Brewery – United Kingdom – This…this really took me to my happy place. Whenever I try a Brown Ale I expect a certain flavour. Rich, mild, warming, slight fruit taste with a dry finish at the end. This beer had it all and was a wonderful experience. I could honestly have had that all day and be perfectly content.

Storm Imperial Flanders Red – Storm Brewing – British Columbia – This ended up being the talk of Session 1. A bit on the acidic side, but wonderful tart notes and a sweet finish with a beautiful, complex aroma,

Grand River Beetified Bohemian Beet Beer – Grand River Brewing – Ontario – A unique beer that I really enjoyed and was a surprise coming from Grand River, who normally make some pretty standard beers. Of course the colour was a nice, deep red, but the aroma was nice and earthy and the taste was a whole whack of beets with a nice hoppy finish that made it a comfortable treat.

Jaffa Cake Brown Ale – Hockley Brewing – Ontario – While I do hesitate to put it in the highlights, as it was pretty watered down and light on flavour, I have to give points for originality and actually getting down the taste of a delicious Jaffa Cake. I would have liked to have tasted more though, instead of a whisp of Jaffa Cake and a quick exit.

Proper Job Export IPA – St. Austell Brewery– United Kingdom – Really glad I tried this one. A simple, but warm and inviting IPA that hugged me like an old relative I hadn’t seen in a while. Slight notes of caramel malts with hints of citrus and pine.

El Jaguar Imperial Stout with Chocolate & Chilies – Amsterdam Brewery – Ontario – While an absolute beast at 14% ABV, it had lots of amazing chocolate flavours along with a really nice, ever so slight heat at the back with the chilies that crept up on you after a sip. Definitely a good winter warmer.

And that was only a few of a much larger list.

An incredible event that just seems to get better each year. I already can’t wait to see what next year will be like.

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Cask Days 2012

Have to say, that was one enjoyable Cask Days.

Some quirks were expected, as the festival moved from the smaller Hart House to the bigger and better Evergreen Brick Works and added on an extra third session. The biggest problem was that nearly half of the 100 or so casks went empty at the third and final session, but the festival made up for it by bringing in new casks and offering $10 in cash or beer tokens to people attending.

I wasn’t around for that one, though. I went to the first session which went as smoothly as possible. The Brick Works offered amazing shelter from the rain, the delicious food was ready to go (the cured meat plate was my saviour), all the beers advertised were available (though some went quicker than others because of word of mouth) and I ended up having a lot of fun by trying new and weird beers, talking to brewers and other beer writers (some of which I’ve previously only spoken with on twitter) and chatting with strangers by comparing notes, making suggestions and in one case singing along with them to Wu-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. Definitely a different experience from my time last year and I think, tiny tweaks to be made aside, BarVolo, the organizers of Cask Days, have matched the festival with the expectations and growing popularity of craft beer.

And now on to some of the highlight beers from the 25 or so that I sampled…

FAVOURITES:

Flying Monkeys Mark Henry Sexual Chocolate Triple Take Down Stout – Yes, that’s what they called it. This was quite a dangerous drink, as it tasted like the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had and at about 12% ABV…damn. Amazing.

R&B Brewing Cucumber & Mint American IPA – An incredibly refreshing IPA that I hope becomes available in the summer. The Cucumber offered a really nice crispness to the drink while the mint, though subtle, added a nice bite. And of course the hoppiness brought it all together.

Amsterdam Brewing Full City Tempest – Imperial Russian Stout with coffee. “Have you tried the Tempest yet? Do it now.” was pretty much all I heard for my first ten minutes at Cask Days from the brewers I ran in to and I’m glad I took their advice. Went down very smoothly and the coffee was a powerful and amazing presence.

Black Oak Call of Brewty Black Chipotle Schwarzbier – This…I really enjoyed it. This was the first beer I had that cleared my sinuses, burned away anything hanging around in my throat and warmed me up for the rest of the day. I went back to the cask for seconds. To give an idea of how much chipotle was in it, I’m pulling this from Alan Brown, the brewer of this beer’s, web site:

I brought a small container of perhaps 125 mL of pulverized smoked chipotle, courtesy of Chef Michael Olson of Niagara College. The question was, how much chipotle to add to 40 litres of schwarzbier? The assistant brewmaster looked at the container of chipotle, then at me, then at the container.

“Add it all,” he suggested.

“All?” I gulped.

“Sure.”

So I added it all.

Amazing. Hope to see something like that again very soon.

THE NOT-SO-FAVOURITES:

Microbrasserie Charlevoix “Chicory” Strong Porter – Just missed the mark for me. The chicory flavours was pretty minimal and the whole thing tasted rather thin.

Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater Milk Stout – A bit too thin for me (I like my stouts as thick as sludge) and WAY too sweet.

F&M Wurst Idea Ever – Sour Ale brewed with Brussel Sprouts and Smoked Meat. I know it sounds weird, but I thought the use of those two ingredients was fun. But as much as I hate sounding like a judge for Iron Chef, I felt that the beer didn’t celebrate the two ingredients, especially the brussel sprouts, well. In the end it smelled horribly and left a really bad taste in my mouth. I ended up dumping it.

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Rogers Daytime Toronto – 2nd Appearance Recap

So! Exciting day! I was asked to come back on Daytime Toronto today to talk about some heat-busting local beers. Like the last time, I had a blast and the host Glenn Dixon, asked some great questions and told me that he learned a lot about how diverse beer was. By the end I was thanked and asked to come back on in the Fall season and I gave Glenn two of the beers he liked the best from the tasting I gave.

An added bonus for me was, as the show was wrapping up, I was approached by crew members who asked questions and said that before today they had no idea that beer was so diverse and there was more out there than the mainstream lagers. It’s moments like that which make me really happy I’m doing what I’m doing.

But what beers was I showcasing? Some people might be able to recognize from the picture, but for those that don’t I’ll go through them right to left.

1. Muskoka Summer Weiss (Muskoka Brewery) – Light, sweet and crisp weiss beer that really cuts down the heat. I mean look at that.

2. Oranje Weisse (Amsterdam Brewery) – Beautiful hint of oranges and slight bitter notes.

3. Summer Festivale (Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.) – Lovely Alt beer with nice hoppiness at the start and smooth maltiness as it reaches the back of the throat.

4. Rosée D’hibiscus (Dieu Du Ciel) – A light beer with the colour, aroma and taste all coming from the Hibiscus flowers used in the brewing process. Sweet, crisp and, dare I say it, flowery.

All of those and MANY more are excellent thirst quenchers on a hot summer day. I can’t tell you how much fun I had on this show and am looking forward to coming back in the Fall.

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Lock it in the Basement: Aging Beers

Aging: It’s not just for wines, whiskeys and people who aren’t me.

So I’ve decided to take the next step in my beer appreciation learnings and start doing what I’ve wanted to do ever since I tried some beer that had undergone this process. I’m going to start aging beer. I think my first instance in trying some aged beer was at Dogfish Head’s brewpub, where I had a World Wide Stout that had been aged for one year and…dear LORD, it was amazing. Ever since then I’ve been thinking about it. Last week, when Amsterdam Brewery released Tempest Imperial Stout (a delicious one-off originally brewed last year) I decided to buy a few to be the first test subjects in my beer cellar. Lucky thing I got them too, as all 1400 bottles produced sold out within two days. Also, thank heavens, I was able to get the last Muskoka “Winter Beard” Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout from Muskoka Brewery’s retail store.

But how the hell do I get to aging these things? Well, I’m still reading on the subject, but here’s what I’ve learned so far…

–       The beers have to be stored at a cool 10-20°c in a dark, semi-dry room. A basement, garage or cave will do in a pinch. A closet for apartment dwellers also works.

–       The beers have to be bottle-conditioned, which is to say that there are active yeasts in the bottles allowing the beer to further ferment.

–       Beers heavy in malts like Stouts, Porters, Barley Wines and Belgian Ales are best for aging for long periods of time. This makes sense, since the more malts (sugars) the more of a meal the yeasts have which will allow them to do their thing (eat sugar, poop alcohol).

–       Hoppy beers aren’t that great for aging over long periods of time, as the hops break down after a while and create a kind of skunky, dreadful drink.

–       The higher the alcohol content, the more benefits the beer will have to being aged. The agreed upon rule seems to be “8% ABV or higher”, although many Beglian beers with low ABV percentages have also benefited greatly from aging.

–       If the beer contains Brettanomyces, a Belgian yeast that is usually added near bottling time, you’re able to age it. This yeast does a lot in a few months or years (see Goose Island’s Matilda, which can be aged for five years). Having this yeast isn’t needed, this is just a “if you see a beer with this in it, go for it” kind of tip.

–       While there is some argument on this, it is advised to always store the beer in the upright position rather than on its side. The debate is mainly over how to store beer that has been corked, as laying it on the side will prevent the cork from drying out. Although a way around THAT can be to dip the top of the bottle with wax. You know what, I’ll just leave it to one’s discretion.

The advantage of aging beers? Well, there are certain strong flavours in beers that mellow out over time and bring a rise to flavours you may not have noticed before. In Imperial Stouts, for instance, the alcohol bite goes down along with the heavy coffee overtones and presents a sweeter, almost creamier beer. So it highlights complexities to a beer that you didn’t know were there. That’s a good enough reason for me, at any rate.

Beers can be aged for years and years too. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people opening a bottle of Chimay from 1986  and even a beer that was discovered to have been stored since 1869! Madness? Probably. Worth it? Most definitely.

You can also age beer in things like Oak whiskey barrels to add a wonderful flavour and depth to the beers, but since I’m not Mme. Moneybucks McGee (Of the Southampton McGees), I’m going to discuss bottle aging for now.

Right, so now on to my little project.

It was easy to pick the location (the basement of my cottage in Muskoka). It’s dark, it’s cold and it’s dry, but not dry enough to give me a nosebleed or chapped lips. It also has shelf space, so if a flood happens down there (Give me a break, it IS a cottage. It happens) then I have no fear of water touching my precious bottles. I also have something covering it, so no burglers will sneak in to the house in the middle of the night and find it.

It’s important to label what year your beers are from (see above picture) so you’ll remember. And don’t think you will, because unless you’re some kind of savant or only aging one beer you’ll have at least a bit of difficulty remembering. Just do it that way. To add a fun bit of nostalgia to it, I may also write down a few details of how my life is currently going, so I can look back on it. But hey, do what you want.

So now it’s set up in complete, cold darkness and is FAR AWAY from me. I’ll admit, one of my biggest concerns is the will power it takes to just WAIT. Because now I have some fantastic beers in that room and what’s the harm in just having one? See, this is why I chose the cottage. I go up there about 4-5 times a year now, so the chance of me getting to it is pretty minimal. My other biggest concern is how the room will be in the winter time. If it ends up being too cold, I may have to move them. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, eh?

So here’s the score with the beers I have on your right. I have three bottles of this year’s Tempest Imperial Stout, which according to the brewer, can be aged for up to three years. One will be aged for one year, another for two and the final for a third year. The Tempest wrapped in a white top has already been aged for a year and a half (came with a six pack of the beer as a gift) and will be brewed for an additional year and a half. If more Temptests come out every year, I’ll be buying some to age. The Muskoka Winter Beard will be aged for a year. There is also a plan to age some Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Goose Island Matilda and Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. We’ll see how those go. Regardless I am going to try to have at least three beers in there at any given time for several years.

And that’s that. If any of you readers have suggestions for beers to age, I’d sure appreciate it! If I can get a hold of it, I’ll try!

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A Teaser of a Tempest

Woah now! Who are THESE two hot kids on the block? Well, it’s a bottle of Amsterdam Brewery’s Tempest Imperial Stout. One bottle of this year’s batch (just released today at the brewery’s retail store only) and one bottle of the same beer aged for a year.

What’s going to happen with these beers? Why are they here (other than the fact that Tempest is an amazing beer that blew me away when it made its debut on cask during Toronto Beer Week)?

Well, you’ll just have to wait until Tuesday after the long weekend, as I have a few other pictures to take and some further things to research.

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